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'Part I - Sacco-Vanzetti: The Case That Will Not Die'

Wednesday February 17, 2021
1:00 PM until 2:00 PM

The Digital Commonwealth Membership and Outreach & Education Committees invite you to register for these upcoming events in their "Expanding Your Digital Horizons" Online Series:


February 17 2021, 1-2pm, "Part I - Sacco-Vanzetti: The Case That Will Not Die"

March 9, 2021, 1-2pm, "Part II - Sacco-Vanzetti: The Impact on Art and Literature"

Presented by: Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice, Judge Peter Agnes (ret.)

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian immigrant anarchists who were controversially convicted of murdering a guard and a paymaster during the April 15, 1920, armed robbery of the Slater and Morrill Shoe Company in Braintree, Massachusetts. Seven years later, they were electrocuted in the electric chair at Charlestown State Prison. Anti-immigrant, and anti-Anarchist bias appeared to have heavily influenced the verdict. A series of appeals followed, funded largely by the private Sacco and Vanzetti Defense Committee. All appeals were denied by trial judge Webster Thayer and also later denied by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. By 1926, the case had drawn worldwide attention. As details of the trial and the men's suspected innocence became known, Sacco and Vanzetti became the center of one of the largest causes célèbres in modern history. In 1927, protests on their behalf were held in many major cities throughout the world.

Celebrated writers, artists, and academics pleaded for their pardon or for a new trial. Harvard law professor and future Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter argued for their innocence. Responding to a massive influx of telegrams urging their pardon, Massachusetts governor Alvan T. Fuller appointed a three-man commission to investigate the case. After weeks of secret deliberation that included interviews with the judge, lawyers, and several witnesses, the commission upheld the verdict. Sacco and Vanzetti were executed in the electric chair just after midnight on August 23, 1927. Subsequent riots destroyed property in Paris, London, and other cities.

On the 50th anniversary of the executions in 1977, MA Governor Michael Dukakis issued a proclamation that Sacco and Vanzetti had been unfairly tried and convicted and that "any disgrace should be forever removed from their names".

In Part I of his two-part presentation, Justice Agnes will explore how the biases of this trial and social status of the accused are relevant today. In Part II, he will discuss the body of art, literature, music and movies that has been inspired by the impassioned reactions to their plight.

Peter W. Agnes, Jr. grew up in Somerville, Massachusetts. He graduated cum laude from Boston University in 1972 and from Suffolk University Law School, cum laude, in 1975. He became a law clerk to New Hampshire Supreme Court Justice Edward Lampron in 1975. He then served as an Assistant District Attorney, first in Middlesex County where he became Chief of the Appellate Division, and then in Norfolk County, from 1976 through 1982. From 1986 to 1989 he was both the Assistant Secretary for Public Safety and Acting Director of the Massachusetts Criminal Justice Training Council and then served as Chief of Operations for Governor Michael Dukakis until 1991. Judge Agnes is very active as an educator for both the courts and the bar, assisting organizations like the Flaschner Judicial Institute, MCLE, CPCS and various bar associations. He has also taught at the Massachusetts School of Law as an adjunct professor for the last 20 years. Judge A gnes was appointed to the Appeals Court by Governor Deval Patrick in 2011. In 2017, he was appointed the chair of the SJC Committee on Archives and Records Conservation. One of that committee's recommendations led to an agreement between the SJC and the Secretary of the Commonwealth which enables the SJC to store the judiciary's most historic permanent paper records in vault space at the state archives. In 2019, Justice Agnes was appointed chair of the SJC Advisory Committee on Archives and Records.

The SJC’s Archives hold an extensive collection of documents relating to the Sacco-Vanzetti case. Aware that the Boston Public Library and Digital Commonwealth had already digitized their own extensive holdings on the case, Judge Agnes wanted the SJC’s materials to be digitized and also held by Digital Commonwealth. Digitization of the SJC’s materials was recently completed. Judge Agnes had planned to hold a conference on Sacco-Vanzetti in 2021, but unfortunately the event had to be postponed due to COVID-19. Digital Commonwealth is honored that he has agreed to make these two presentations.

There is no charge for these events, but registration is required. Attendance is limited so register early!

Don't miss these amazing events with Judge Agnes!!

For Part I, register at: https://digitalcommonwealth.wildapricot.org/event-4134195/Registration

For Part II, register at: https://digitalcommonwealth.wildapricot.org/event-4134228/Registration



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This page last updated : EK/TK MAP2 2021.01.13 - 11:00 AM
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